Safe Places signs help youths find help when in danger

Safe Place signs mark businesses who have received training from Sally Kate Winters on children running away from dangerous situations.

GOLDEN TRIANGLE, Miss. (WCBI) – The yellow signs on the outside of some buildings means a little more than some might think.

Fire Station one isn’t just another fire station – it’s also a safe place for kids who find themselves in tough situations. Assistant Chief Duane Hughes said having this designation is an honor.

“Fire stations in Columbus and around the nation have always been considered safe places for kids. It’s just great that we get that information out and those children know that whether they’re maybe facing an abusive situation or they’re lost, whatever it may be, they can come to fire stations and receive the help they need,” Hughes said.

Safe Place is a national organization that helps connect kids who are in danger with counselors. Sally Kate Winters in West Point saw the need and has trained 34 businesses and offices in Northeast Mississippi on how to better help a child.

“All of the fire departments in West Point, Columbus, and Starkville are safe place sites for us as well as all of the boys and girls clubs in those counties. And then we also target places where at-risk youths might be,” Kasy Ates, a Shelter Counselor of Sally Kate Winters, said.

Each Safe Place is marked using a yellow diamond sign – a beacon for kids to find shelters for a variety of different situations.

“So any conflict within the home that puts them at risk for being a runaway for homeless. It could be that they’ve experienced something that made them feel unsafe such as abuse or neglect of a dangerous situation and they don’t know who to tell or how to connect,” Ates said.

“It’s very successful. Batallion Chief Gibson had a young adult that was in trouble, saw the signs and he was able to actually get her in contact with social workers and some other things that not only helped her in the short term but provided long-term care for her and her family,” Hughes said.

While there has only been a few kids who have gone to locations with yellow signs posted on the outside of the building, Shelter councilors and trained staff said it’s better to have the locations available than not at all.

“Once you’ve noticed and you’ve seen those safe place signs, just the variety and different locations you see them around town will actually astonish you. All these organizations received the same training that we do here at Columbus Fire and Rescue and the program has been highly successful,” Hughes said.

Safe Places are located and ready to help in West Point, Starkville, and Columbus.

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